Tips for Better Client Intake [Guest Post]

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We thank the Lawyerist.com team for this guest post.

Client intake is the most important task you will handle outside of legal work. Done right, it creates a smooth process, organizes your resources, improves productivity, and gives your clients a reason to fall in love with your firm. It inspires those around you and empowers everyone to deliver the best service from Day One.

A next-level client intake process also helps you to make a great first impression. It can help you stand out from the crowd and keeps your clients coming back. And who knows? They could come back with some nice referrals in the future, too.

If you haven’t created your own client intake process or you haven’t reviewed yours for some time, consider these tips for creating a culture of successful client intake.

Keep it Simple (at first)

Don’t bombard your client from the get-go with a long intake form. Cut to the chase by gathering only the most important information to get started on the case. The best things to gather up front include:

  • The client’s contact information
  • The root of the issue
  • Why the client decided to call you
  • Gut-check notes (e.g., ask, “Is this something I want?” and “Do I trust this person?”)

If you decide to set a first meeting, also gather additional contact information for anyone who the client authorizes to give updates on the matter.

These questions help you get to the heart of the matter while keeping your initial conversation short. They also help you weed out clients or cases that won’t fit well with your firm or that create conflicts when you run your conflict check.

Think this isn’t enough? Trust us, keeping it simple at first avoids overwhelming a prospective client. You can save all the deeper questions for your first interview.

Always Protect and Respect Your Time

Most attorneys believe that billing for this initial intake isn’t an option. We dispute that prevailing wisdom. But even if you don’t charge, it doesn’t mean you have a lot of time to spend; your time is valuable. Avoid wasting time by:

  • Setting time limits for initial intake calls;
  • Asking pointed questions;
  • Using an intake form that covers all the bases and follow up from your staff to fill in any blanks.

Always remember that this phone call is important to your prospective client. Be courteous, respectful, and engaged. If you can’t be this way—perhaps you’re in the middle of a stressful project or you simply woke up on the wrong side of the bed—don’t answer the phone. Have the prospective client leave a message and return it when you’re in a better place or mood.

Develop a Reusable System

Create a client intake system that you can repeat for each new client. This system should take you from the first point of contact through to the representation agreement. After all, practice makes perfect and it keeps everyone on the same page.

Improve Your Law Firm as a Whole

An improved client intake process will up your productivity game and enhance each client’s experience. Consider how much more you can accomplish if you sought to improve additional areas of your practice. At Lawyerist, we’ve designed our Small Firm Scorecard to help you assess your strengths and weaknesses and determine how to best position your firm for success. Get your free score today.